Lisbon, a city where ancient history and modern culture collide, offers a unique journey through time. From its roots as a bustling Phoenician trading port to becoming the heart of Portugal’s Age of Discoveries, Lisbon’s rich past is etched in its vibrant streets and historic landmarks.
These 12 Lisbon insider tips from Yvonne Ivanescu, who blogs at Now in Portugal, will guide you through this fascinating city, revealing hidden gems and local favorites, making your visit a truly authentic and unforgettable experience.
When to go to Lisbon?
Lisbon is a great place to visit year-round. Even in the coldest months, the high temperature remains around 60°F (15°C). In the summer, the high is around 80°F (26°C), which is not too hot compared to other summer destinations. It has a subtropical Mediterranean climate that makes the weather reasonably mild year-round.
Another thing to keep in mind is the crowds. Lisbon can get very busy during the summer, so I recommend visiting during the late spring to early fall months. The best months are May-June and September-October. This way, you’ll experience Lisbon more like the locals do and less like a tourist.
How to get to Lisbon
The easiest way to get to Lisbon is by flying. The Humberto Delgado Airport is a large international airport that easily connects to downtown Lisbon. You can get cheap flights from almost any European city and sometimes even from major North American cities.
You can also take a train or bus to Lisbon from almost anywhere in Europe. However, this will likely become more expensive in the end and take a lot longer.
The last option is by car. Driving to this city is simple, and the roads are excellent, which makes this a fantastic option. Lisbon is a great place to start exploring Portugal and is one of the cheapest places in Portugal to get to if you are coming from abroad.
Fun fact: TAP Airlines offers an option called Portugal Stopover, where you can add a free stopover in Lisbon or Porto from 1 to 10 days.
12 Best Lisbon Insider Tips
1. Bring Your Most Comfortable Shoes
Lisbon is known as the city of the seven hills, and I guarantee that your feet will feel those hills. This means leaving the heels at home and bringing comfortable walking shoes. All the best neighborhoods in Lisbon are on hills, like Bario Alto, Alfama, and Príncipe Real, so good walking shoes are necessary.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel like walking, as Lisbon is super well-connected. You can zip around the city in trams, funiculars, the metro, UBER, and taxis. And if you want a particular type of experience, you can always book a tuk-tuk ride to the best viewpoints in the city.
2. Discover Street Art
The street art in Lisbon is some of the best in the world. Some of my favorite murals around the city are Mural Graffiti Fado Vadio, murals at the LX Factory, and the Plastic Fox mural – and this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the amount of street art there is here. Street art can be found all over Lisbon, so watch for it.
If you want a more curated Lisbon street art display, visit the Urban(R)Evolution Exhibit in the Cordoaria Nacional Art Museum. There, they show work from local street artists in a fun and creative way.
3. Experience authentic Fado music
Fado music is the music of Lisbon. It was first created in the 1800s and has become the music of the Alfacinha people (what people from Lisbon are called). Today, you can experience this music for yourself at one of the many restaurants that play it live as you eat.
You can either book this experience as a tour or reserve your spot at one of the restaurants, such as Club de Fado, A Baiuca, or O Faia. This is a great way to experience Lisbon’s culture through food and music while having a romantic night out.
4. Take a Cruise down the Tagus River
A river cruise is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. These cruises are usually 1-2 hours long and will take you to the most famous spots along the Tagus River, like the Belém Tower, the April 25 Bridge, and the Ajuda National Palace.
Each tour will have a different meeting spot, show your various sites, and offer other amenities, so choose the one that best fits you and your group. Also, I recommend booking a tour with wine included for an enjoyable time.
5. Santa Justa Lift Without the Crowds
Instead of going up the famous Santa Justa lift, where you have to pay and wait for over an hour, you can try this travel hack. First, head to the Carmo Covento, a beautiful gothic church destroyed in the 1755 earthquake.
Once you’ve reached this convent, take the street next to it called Tv. Dom Pedro de Menezes. From there, you can get to the exit of the Santa Justa Lift, where you can see the views for free, and you don’t have to wait in a long queue.
6. Shop at Embaixada
This 19th-century palace-turned-shopping mall is genuinely incredible. It’s located in the Príncipe Real neighborhood and can easily be accessed by public transport. From the outside, this white, 20th-century neo-Arab palace looks stunning against the colorful Portuguese buildings.
Once you enter, you ascend a marble staircase surrounded by beautiful art pieces into the heart of this multi-story building. Then, you can climb to the different levels of the mall and visit all the shops and boutiques that make this place unique.
The stores here feature Portuguese brands and designers, a restaurant, and even a spa.
7. Explore the Lesser Known Lisbon Museums
Lisbon has many popular museums, but if you want to see some lesser-known ones, head to the National Museum of the Azulejo, the National Coach Museum, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, and the Quake – Lisbon Earthquake Museum.
These are some of the best museums and usually don’t have the crowds that the more famous ones have.
My personal favorite is the National Museum of the Azulejo. This museum is the best place in Portugal to learn about the history of Azulejo (Portuguese tiles) and the history of Portugal through the stories depicted on these tiles.
8. Utilize the Navegante Occasional Card (Formerly Viva Viagem)
This card makes traveling in Lisbon easy. You can buy it anywhere you purchase public transportation tickets and use it for the rest of your trip. On this card, you can load as many tickets as you want or even purchase 24-hour tickets. You can reload the card by going to any ticket booth and topping up your card.
As I said earlier, seeing Lisbon on foot can get tiring, so use this card and see it like a local. Also, the metro stations in Lisbon have some of the best artwork in the city!
9. Take a Day Trip
Lisbon is amazing, but so are the surrounding cities. Some of the best day trips from Lisbon include Cascais, Sintra, Ericeira, and Costa da Caparica. These cities have everything from pristine beaches to medieval castles.
My favorite trip was to Sintra. You can either book a tour or take the train to get here. Once you arrive, you can buy a ticket for the hop-on-hop-off bus and see the six castles across this beautiful city.
If you’re looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, then head to one of these incredible places.
10. Enjoy the various viewpoints
If you are looking for amazing views of the city, then try going to one of Lisbon’s many viewpoints. Some of my favorite ones include Miradouro Das Portas Do Sol, Miradouro Da Senhora Do Monte, and Miradouro Da Graça. These miradouros (viewpoints) give you amazing views of the city’s red tile roofs, colorful buildings, and tall churches.
They are also the perfect place to watch the sunset. If you can find a lesser-known viewpoint, you will most likely have it to yourself, but if you go to one of the more popular viewpoints for sunset, make sure to get there at least 30 minutes before to get a good spot.
Final Thoughts: 12 Awesome Lisbon Insider Tips
Embrace these 12 insider tips to transform your Lisbon visit into an extraordinary adventure. Immerse yourself in the local scene, savor the unique flavors, and capture the essence of this captivating city. Let Lisbon’s charm and vibrancy create memories that last a lifetime.